HISD expected to meet with attorney ahead of TEA investigation

By Daniela Sternitzky-Di Napoli - Digital News Editor, Taisha Walker - Reporter, Andy Cerota - Anchor/Reporter

HOUSTON - The HISD board of trustees sat with a lawyer behind closed doors following Thursday’s  Houston Independent School District disciplinary hearing to get clarification on a letter The Texas Education Agency sent trustees regarding the special accreditation investigation.

Board members received a letter from the TEA on Tuesday saying the agency was opening a special accreditation investigation.

The letter did not say why, but a source with knowledge of school board operations has confirmed to KPRC2 that TEA investigators were at HISD headquarters Tuesday "(going) through computer files investigating potential violations of open meeting laws."

“The other complaint the agency is investigating centers on governance and whether trustees are over-reaching their roles in deciding what the administration should be doing,” HISD Board President Diana Davila said.

Interviews, just one step in the process, have begun today, Davila said. 

She said they are strictly voluntary and that she is trying to schedule hers for Friday. There’s no timetable on how long the TEA investigation could take. Davila added investigators are in the process of collecting three years worth of information. 

Many board members have declined to comment until meeting with the attorney, but a few like Jolanda Jones are openly welcoming the TEA investigation.

"I want for them to come in and investigate us. I want the DA's office to come in and investigate. Because they always vote in sync, and they know what's going on," Jones said. "I do know that people have been complaining. I've had various people contact me, even at the state level. I just want transparency. That's all I want. I hope they don't take us over. I want a thorough investigation. I do not want them to take us over. I want TEA to allow us the ability to self-correct.” 

Former Harris County Treasurer Orlando Sanchez says taxpayers have been fed up with the district long enough. Sanchez says it is time the TEA does something to shift the focus back to the children.

“HISD has had ample time from taxpayers, from parents, from citizens, from the business community and it’s time that the resources of the Texas Education Agency step in and help this community out.”

Davila says she is confident the board will get its accreditation, and that the board hasn’t done anything wrong. She also says there is no truth to the violation accusations.

"I think people have the right to their opinion,” Davila said. “I think it's been an opinion made or a rumor has started that the Open Meetings Act was violated by several board members including myself, but no Open Meetings Act violations occurred."

Davila said the board will be transparent and cooperative with the investigation. 

The meeting started at 8 a.m. Thursday.

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